Sunday 21 January 2018

Sean Dunne's wife seeks to cross examine American bankruptcy lawyer

Gayle and Sean Dunne
Gayle and Sean Dunne

Aodhan O'Faolain

THE wife of bankrupt developer Sean Dunne wants to cross examine a lawyer representing the official dealing with his bankruptcy in the US.

It is part of Gayle Dunne's bid to halt Irish proceedings against her arising over alleged invalid transfers to her of various assets of her husband.

The assets include the transfer of a hotel in South Africa valued at more than €18m. The action has been brought by Chris Lehane, the official administering Mr Dunne's Irish bankruptcy.

Ms Dunne, with an address at Greenwich, Connecticut, USA, wants the proceedings brought by Mr Lehane against her discontinued.

She says the transfers are already the subject of bankruptcy proceedings in the US.

In March 2013, Mr Dunne filed for bankruptcy in Connecticut, where he was based. In July 2013, he was adjudicated bankrupt in Ireland. That adjudication was upheld by the Supreme Court in May.

At the Commercial Court Tuesday (Oct 27), her counsel Alan Doherty said Ms Dunne believes the Irish proceedings in respect of the alleged transfer are oppressive.

His client wants any such challenge to the alleged transfer determined by the US courts.

The proceedings in the US are more advanced and there are more parties involved who will be affected by the outcome, counsel submitted.

As part of his client's application to have the Irish proceedings dismissed, they want permission to cross examine the Milton Berger,  who is the lawyer of Richard Coan, the Bankruptcy Trustee dealing with Mr Dunne's bankruptcy in the US.

The court heard Mr Berger has provided sworn statements in respect of Mr Lehane's proceedings on issues including points of US law, counsel said.

The application is opposed by Mr Lehane, represented by Mark Sanfey SC and Edward Farrelly Bl.

Mr Lehane's proceedings relate to two alleged agreements between Sean Dunne and his wife in 2005 and 2008.

The alleged agreements relate assets including the Lagoon Beach Hotel, Cape Town, South Africa and interests in assets including properties in Dublin and Co Wicklow as well  as Rivertree (Numbers 1 and 3 Shrewsbury Road, Dublin.

Mr Lehane claims the alleged agreement has no legal status.

In her defence, Ms Dunne says she is legally married to, and is the employer of, Mr Dunne, has been a US resident since 2010 and divides her home between the US and UK where she has business interests.

Prior to getting married, the couple had agreed, if she married Mr Dunne and started a family with him, he would immediately transfer a portion of his wealth to her, she claims.

Agreements were reached between herself and Mr Dunne in March 2005 and in 2008 and a formal share transfer took place in October 2008.

The transfers were entered into as compensation for Ms Dunne, when she and Mr Dunne had started a family, for her career as a journalist and her prospective career as a lawyer.

It is denied Mr Dunne purported to transfer assets or profits to her as alleged by Mr Lehane.

The application, which is before Ms Justice Caroline Costello, will resume later next month.

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